African American Studies:
Discourses and Paradigms
Perry A. Hall
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
African American Studies, like all academic disciplines, has been constituted from several paradigms or schools of thought evolving historically from specific intellectual and social contexts. The purpose of this chapter is to show how a multiplicity of perspectives has developed in the context of the creation of African American Studies and its maintenance and development as an academic field. My task here is to frame those perspectives contextually among the many levels of confrontation and struggle comprising and characterizing the social movement out of which the initiative for intellectual enterprise of African American Studies was impelled. Reflecting the historical evolution of African American Studies, as well as the current variation among Black Studies scholars and those in the community in general, the multilayered nature of this struggle reflects the variety of intellectual and ideological perspectives involved in creating the field that has taken shape, as well as the variations in paradigms and theoretical perspectives that have emerged to constitute the field.
African American Studies (originally called Black Studies) emerged as a consequence of the quantum leap in the numbers of African Americans on predominantly white, public, and private college and university campuses, all of which resulted from the gains and pressures of the Black Freedom Movement in the mid-1960s.1 Their campus tenure was profoundly shaped by important events that startled history and disrupted social order. Bloody confrontations in Selma, Alabama eventually yielded the Voting Rights Act, an historic victory that capped a phase of the Black Freedom